When Memory Doesn’t Work: Why We Forget to Remember


Schoolboy Struggling with Math ProblemsIn a previous post, I shared how a fascinating network of brain-based systems help us make memories.  However, sometimes our memory just doesn’t work as well as it should.

Problems may occur at any stage in the memory process.

  • Sometimes we don’t pay attention long enough to allow new information to register in our short-term and working memory.

  • Sometimes we can’t remember because the information was never encoded into long-term memory.

  • Sometimes we can’t keep information in our long-term memory long enough.

  • Sometimes we can’t retrieve the information even though it’s in long-term storage.

  • Sometimes, our working memory gets overwhelmed and it keeps us from utilizing the memory capacities we have.

Working memory is an important but limited resource when it comes to storing and retrieving information we want to remember. Within our working memory, we can only keep track of about three things at one time. For example, as you are reading this article, you are using your working memory.

  • If you are thinking about trying to remember what I have written, you are using your working memory.

  • If you are thinking about the fun you had during a recent outing and recalling the people you need to thank, you are using your working memory.

  • If you are thinking about the fact that you often struggle to remember what you read, you are using your working memory.

  • If you are thinking that your son must figure out how to do a better job at memorizing formulas for his algebra test on Thursday because he is barely passing algebra, you are using your working memory.

  • If you are thinking that your daughter really needs to study her spelling words for her test on Friday and how her spelling grades continue slipping, you are using your working memory.

  • If you are thinking that when you finish reading this article, you need to call your forgetful husband to remind him to pick up milk on the way home, you are using your working memory.

Unfortunately, if you are thinking about all of these things at the same time, your working memory will be overloaded and some of these things will be forgotten. It is highly likely, you will forget what I have written because I am not one of your family members and recalling what I have written may not be a priority for you at this time. Each of us can tell stories about how we have tried to read an article or a textbook or a lengthy writing of some sort and we later thought to ourselves, “What did I just read?” This usually happens because our working memory is overwhelmed.

j0396077Good News: Memory Can Be Improved!

The good news is if your child, teen, or college student struggles with short-term, long-term, or working memory, our Memory Training Program is designed to help.

Call 817.421.870 to make an appointment today.

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(c) 2014-2015, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.